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Sermon and Children's Story for Ordinary 03 - Year A
Isaiah 9:1-4, Psalm 27; I Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23
"Called To Follow, Born To Fish"


READING:  Isaiah 9:1-4, Psalm 27; I Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23
SERMON :  "Called To Follow, Born To Fish"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or03su 965

     The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
     for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
     found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
     SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC. 


CHILDREN'S TIME: "Fishing For People"
Object    Dingy (Small Rowboat) and Fish Nets, Christian Fish symbol.
Source    Self
Theme     The Calling of the Church - Fishing For People

Good morning...  What do you see here in the church that is a bit
unusual???  (Boat etc)  And what is in the boat?? (Fishing nets)

Now - why do you think we have a boat here in the church today????  Can you
think of any reasons???  How about the adults answering....???

Many, many times in the bible we are told that Jesus went the  seaside with
his disciples, that he got into their boats, that he told them where to lay
their nets, and  when to haul them in.  And whenever he went fishing with
his disciples they always caught a lot of fish.   

When they caught the fish in their big nets they landed those fish into
their boats.  That is what this kind of net is for when you use a fishing
rod and tackle.  When the fish are brought near the boat you reach out and
scoop the fish up in the net and then lift them into the boat.

When Jesus asked his first disciples to be his disciples he talked to them
about fishing - saying to them - "follow me, and I will make you fishers of
people". 

Ever since then that has been the primary image of what it means to be a
follower of Jesus - that each of us is called not only to accept the love
that Jesus has for us and to follow him - but to do what Jesus did - and
help him to bring people into the Kingdom of God - which is symbolized by a
boat.

The secret sign for the church during the time of the Roman Empire when
those who followed Jesus risked being killed by the government - when they
were being arrested for believing in him and being forced to fight against
wild animals in the Colosseum or were nailed to crosses and left to die -
the secret sign for believers was a picture of fish - if you were a
believer in Jesus and were looking for other believers so you could worship
God with them - and you saw a fish like the one I have drawn on the wall of
a house or deep in the caves and tunnels under the city of Rome - you knew
that you were in the right place - a safe place.

Being a Christian - a follower of Jesus can still be a dangerous thing in
some parts of the world.   But even so we who believe in Jesus know that
being in danger with Jesus is better than being without Jesus.

Jesus asks us all to fish for people: to bring those who are lost and
lonely - those who are sad - those who  are looking for a better way of
life - all those people swimming around in lakes and oceans looking for a
new kind of life - into the church, into the boat - into a personal
relationship with him where they can have all the good things that God
wants to give them - and in turn - 'catch' and bring others into the boat -
so that they might have what we already have and so that eventually the
whole world might be a good and wonderful place - a place where no one is
ever killed for what they believe and all people love one another in the
way that Jesus loves us.

So today the boat and the nets are here to remind us of who we are - and
what it is God wants us to do.  We fish for people - when we love them like
Jesus loves us and are not afraid to tell them about his love and his
goodness - how he died for them so that they might live forever.   

Let us pray....


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   Loving God - Lord Jesus - we thank you for loving us - and for
   calling us to follow you.  We thank you for the new life - that you
   give to all who believe in you. -  Help us to love others - in the
   way you love us - help us to shine for you - and to bring people
   into your kingdom. -   Amen

   And in the word's Jesus taught us:

   Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
   come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this
   day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive
   those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but
   deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power and the
   glory, for ever and ever.  Amen


SERMON: "Called to Follow, Born To Fish" 

   O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds
   and in the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in 
   the thoughts that we form.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. 
   Amen.

I really want to thank Ben today for bringing here this incredibly
beautiful little boat and a bit of the fishing gear he has laying about his
home.   Having it here today was not only great for the children's story -
but it is a reminder to us about who we are and what we are about as we
worship God this Sabbath Day and then, in our annual meeting, review what
we  were about last year and set some directions for the coming year.

For a number of years, back in the mid-eighties, I lived in a fishing
village on the East Coast called Sambro.  It is a marvellous place.  
Located just down the shore from Halifax Harbour - it looks out upon the
grey seas of the Atlantic Ocean.  It has been a fishing village for over
200 years.  Canada's oldest lighthouse is located on a small island just
off Sambro Harbour.  

The Atlantic Ocean - and in particular the North Atlantic - is not the most
friendly ocean in the world.  Yet, despite the risks, especially in the
winter, that this area of the ocean poses, the fishermen of Sambro have
gone out to sea - generation after generation - and have found and caught
an incredible abundance of fish.

You all know of course that fishing isn't what it used to be.  Some species
of fish are in decline - others are simply not as profitable.

But the fishermen of Sambro have known hard times before - and undoubted
will know them in the future.  For the most part the ones who have been
born to fish - continue to fish - albeit in different ways given the
different times.  

And most of these fishers 
- even when they have passed the age when other people retire 
   - and even when they themselves have sold their boats or passed them
   along to their children 
continue to fish, at least part time
and to go where the fishermen gather.   

They go to the bait sheds and boat yards - and help mend nets and to drink
coffee boiled on small wood stoves and take a nip of that other stuff which
warms you if they are so inclined - and there they tell stories about
fishing in the past and hear stories about what fishing is like today:
Stories about the times when the nets came up empty trip after trip after
trip about the times when the teller had barely ventured out towards the
Grand Banks and their nets were full to bursting and their arms and legs -
their whole body tired out just from the pulling of them.  Stories about
storms and the fear they have had.  And stories about the ocean when it is
smooth as glass as the stars and the moon shine so brightly at night that
it seems almost to be day.

When Christ called the first disciples he set them a task - the task of
being fishers of men.

   "As he walked by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who
   is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea
   - for they were fishermen.  And he said to them, "follow me, I will
   make you fish for people."

Simon Peter and Andrew - and later James and John could relate to the image
   even if they didn't understand exactly what Jesus meant by it.
They were already fishers.  
   Like many of the fishers in Sambro they had been at it for generations,
they were born to it - and they lived to do it - till their dying day.

They knew that in the end - fishers fish - no matter what.  

And they knew whether it be for salmon, or cod, or mackerel, or trout or
even for people, that fishing takes labour, and it takes thought, and it
takes prayer.

And they knew that there is no life like it.

"Follow me", Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of people"

My friends, that too is what we are called to do as followers of Jesus,
   that is what we are called to do as ones who have longed to know the
   nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven and have heard and seen the good news
   of that Kingdom's coming and have turned away from the things that
   destroy life and embraced the one who heals every disease of people.

That is what we are called to do - and that is what Jesus helps us do.

In a spiritual way - when we begin to follow Jesus - we are born to be
fishers -  fishers of people.

That is what God wants us all to do and be.
   It's what Jesus did  - in Galilee and in Samaria and in Jordan and
                        Judea and Jerusalem,
       And it's what we are supposed to do - in Golden and in Donald, in
       Nicholson and in Parson.

That is part of what our congregational mission statement is talking about 
when it tells that we are a people - a place - who strive to live out our
faith in the world.

How do we do that?   
How do we fish for people?

Well, the ways are many and are varied 
- just as there are many different ways to fish.

But what net or rod and lure, and what trout fishing and fishing for cod or
setting traps for lobster have in common is a purpose and the actual doing
of things to achieve that purpose.

Our purpose is to catch people with the love that God gives us,
and to bring those people to Jesus 
   - who is the owner and the captain of our boat 
to bring them to the one who brings to all who are landed in his boat,
citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Forgiving our enemies,
   blessing those who curse us
       loving those who hate us
   healing others even when we ourselves are wounded 
       feeding others even when we have little or nothing to offer
   doing justice - even when we ourselves are oppressed
       loving mercy and doing kindness
   and all the while testifying to the one who makes it possible for us to
   do the impossible (for who can really love his enemy and who can really
   bless those who curse him)
these are but some of the ways of fishing - some of the ways of being who
Jesus says he will make us when we follow him.

So is providing a place for teaching children the ways of God
   and volunteering to teach them,
So is building a place of worship
   and going there to worship and to share with one another the goodness
   of God.
And so is organizing to provide clothing for those in need,
   food for those who hungry
       and opportunity for those who thirst for truth to find it in a place
as well as in a people.

James and John, Simon Peter and Andrew fished from the shore from time to
time; but they were, for the most part, boat fishermen and part of a crew.

And they, like all the fishers in Sambro 
from the captain down to the humblest member of the crew
received a share of the value of the catch.

In the Kingdom of Heaven - and in the church which is the boat of Christ in
this world - the fishermen not only receive a share of the catch, the catch
itself begins to fish and multiply wealth for God and the people of God.

There is a miracle in the images suggested by this strange mixing of
metaphors.

We who are fish are turned into fishermen 
   when we enter the kingdom of God,
We who were lost and seeking to find a home become ones who bring others to
   our true and eternal home when we turn and follow Jesus.
We who needed blessings are turned into ones who share the greatest of all
   blessings, the blessing of knowing Jesus and the new life he gives.

There is a great miracle in all this - the miracle of transformation,
the miracle of God doing through us what we can can't do on our own,
the miracle of small things as the world counts them becoming great, 
   and of great things as the world reckons greatness - becoming small.

Yesterday, as Tim was getting ready for reading the scripture passages
today - he spoke to me on the phone about how to pronounce some of the
words that appear in them - and then he told me he wondered how the reading
from Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians related to the gospel reading.

Well - one of the ways is this.

Paul wrote to crew of the good ship Corinth, 
   he wrote to the crew of that boat of Christ Jesus in that place 
to remind them of a simple and important fact .

He reminds them that they were not called to form the Peter Group or the
Apollos Party, or to become the disciples of Paul.  They were not called to
become part of an in-group or even part of an out-group.  They were not
called to become spiritual superstars and celebrities in their own right or
to point to others and say - that is the best one to follow and all the
others are less good. 

 He reminds them that they were called by Peter and by Apollos and by he
himself to follow Jesus and to make Jesus the captain of their souls and
the master of their destiny.

Paul writes to the Corinthians to remind them of their calling and of their
mission and to remind them that everyone in the crew is important to
getting the job done
   that everyone has a role to play if the fish are to be caught if the
   kingdom of God is to be seen - ever more near - in them.

And he writes to them to remind them that the central fact of our faith is
the cross - and that while that cross is foolishness to those who are
perishing, it is the power of God to those who are being saved.

I was talking to someone the other day whose father is an alcoholic.  She
was sharing with me how her family coped with the problem - and naturally
Alcoholics Anonymous came up in the conversation.  From that it was but a
short step to a discussion of the first two steps of that program - the
first step being to admit that you are powerless and that you do not have
all the answers, that you cannot cure yourself  - and the second step being
that of coming to believe that there is a Higher Power who alone can set
you free...

That is the truth that Paul was trying to remind the Corinthians of.  And
that is the truth with which we are equipped by Christ as we, his church -
his crew set forth day by day to fish for people.

It is wonderful to be able show and share with someone that God is ready
and able to help them.
   It is wonderful to be part of a crew that works to show God's love and
   teach God's love to those in need.
       It is wonderful - and it is hard - and thrilling - and dangerous -
       and just plain work at times.

Our little boat can get tossed about mightily in the storms of life.
And our nets can come up empty so many times before we get a big strike,.
And when they come up full - well it is hard work to bring them in.

But as my fisher folk in Sambro knew - and fishermen of all kinds know -
there is nothing like it.

There is nothing like doing what you have been born to do and knowing 
as you do it and as you are sustained in the doing of it that the best is
yet to come!

We are born to fish 
- born to share the good news 
- born to bring people to our captain and into his boat, his Kingdom 
so that they may know the love we know 
and receive the life that we ourselves are receiving
   the life that only our captain - our Lord - our Shepherd - our God and
   Father - can give,
the life that is stronger than death

And so it is here at St. Andrew's.   As believers in Christ we are
dedicated to Christian education and spiritual growth in a sharing, caring,
and joyful atmosphere as we reach out to others in God's name and strive to
live the Faith in the world.

Make God help us as a congregation - as his crew -  to make it even more so 
 
- day by day - till the Kingdom of God arrives in it's fulness.   Amen


* HYMN:  "Jesus Calls Us"                                          - VU 562


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2005
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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